I am glad to be coming towards the end of my career. I have spent most of it trying to help people who did not thank me, as a rule, and who were treated with varying degrees of contempt by most of the rest of the population. I also made a reasonable living for a while.
You will have guessed that I spent a lot of my time as a magistrates’ court advocate.
I remain engaged in this work, part-time and in a variety of courts. What has struck me is the low morale of practitioners, in all branches, and the chaos caused by the decisions of politicians and the frightened administrators trying to put their policies into effect.
I bank with the Co-op, which gives you a clue as to my political leanings. I call the people I represent ‘clients’, which gives you another clue. I wince when I read about ‘customers’ and ‘sales targets’.
I am not, however, a Luddite. There may be a parallel with the lighting industry here. I am all in favour of the electric light bulb, but I never read of intimate electric light bulb dinners. In some ways, I am the equivalent of the candlemaker.
For many people, the new order – alternative business structures, virtual firms and conveyancing factories – may provide what they want. Whether they will want it for long is another question. Good-quality baked beans in tins will sell well, and if the new order is getting a good product into a good container, good luck to it.
However, there remain some who think that the original concept of a solicitor (and a barrister, for that matter) still has a place in our society. I would qualify ‘society’ with the adjective ‘civilised’, because it has no place in an uncivilised society. The client, a person who wants sound advice (and action) from an experienced adviser whose judgement they trust, still exists.
A civilised society has a fair, well-run, legal system – fair in its decision-making and in its access. It involves expenditure on unpopular causes and unpopular people. That is what makes it civilised.
Whether we are in for a prolonged period of barbarism, or some enlightened saviour is on their way to rescue us, I do not know. The signs are not good. The only thing wrong with democracy, they say, is the existence of politicians. In our island the second-hand car salesman is king (I know some excellent second-hand car salesmen, by the way, but I do not want them running the country).
In the meantime I will carry on as long as I can, trying to help those who value my assistance – or would if they could. I have hopes for the survival of the candlemakers among us, and wish the electric light bulb-makers well.
Michael Freeman, Shropshire